I'll fill you in on some of my adventures in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong at some point when I've got a bit more time, and New York will definitely need some more attention (I know, sorry... how lucky am I?!), but I don't want to become a travelogue, so I'll try to space it out over the next couple of months.
For now, I wanted to share the wonderful time I had rambling around Central Park a couple of Sunday mornings ago (it was the 10th April, but I've not had much time for post-writing). I had to be at the theatre for midday that day, but it was such a glorious spring morning that I couldn't let it go to waste.
I think I mentioned in my 2014 A View of New York post my huge admiration for the vision and ambition shown by the planners of Manhattan's grid in 1811, when the city population was comparatively tiny, and all living just on the southernmost tip of the island.
But, as the plan was put into practice and their brilliantly-conceived grid started to fill up, they realised they hadn't allowed for enough green space, enough democratic space for all New Yorkers to gather, and so they altered their plans.
Some of the gridblocks intended for buildings would instead be preserved as parkland.
Yes, there were some necessary evictions from the sparsely populated area of city-owned land which they selected for their Central Park...
... but what a statement of intent to take such a vast area of what could have been hugely profitable business or residential land and turn it into a park, with free entry for all.
And what a park! With such vistas, and beautifully thought-out landscaping... On top of the huge earth-moving, the lake-digging, and the planting involved, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, whose design won the the 1858 competition, included no fewer than 36 bridges, each one different.
And it's wonderful to be here in springtime too - it's just going to get lovelier over the next couple of weeks...
... though the blossom is already pretty special. Forgive me, I can't resist a bit of blossom!
There's art in the park too - plenty of it. I was only there for a couple of hours, so saw only the tiniest portion of the whole park and the sculptural treasures it offers, but I delighted in this wonderful bronze of Alice at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
You have to grab your photo quickly if you want the sculpture to take centre stage - people like to sit on those mushrooms to have their photos taken.
As well as art and sculpture, there are formal sports areas, softball pitches and tennis courts, restaurants and cafes, paddling ponds and boating lakes (and a model boat lake, look!) as well as a large reservoir (with a 1.58 mile running track around it), bridle paths for horses, miles of trails to walk, playgrounds for children - not to mention the zoo and the famous horse-drawn coaches seen in so many films and television programmes.
Okay, but a park is a park, so what makes this one so special? Of course part of the excitement is in the juxtaposition of rural and urban - gleaming steel soaring above the trees in places...
... or when some of the more ornate buildings appear from amongst the tree tops...
... the extraordinary architectural fantasies seeming like fairytale castles hidden in the depths of a vast magical forest.
But it's also about the sheer scale of the place (it is 2.5 miles long, and more than half a mile wide, making a more than six-mile perimeter). As you can see from these photos, even on a sunny spring morning (okay, it was cold!), you can easily escape the crowds if you want to.
And I think what I find particularly special is the fact that, as well as the obviously landscaped vistas, the manicured lawns and well-kept sports grounds, they also tried to create areas to echo the wild, rugged landscape of Manhattan before the city existed.
It's perfectly possible to get properly lost and find yourself in a rural wilderness, especially in the wonderfully rugged Ramble, where the rocky paths and wild scrubland make it hard to comprehend that you are actually in the middle of one of the busiest cities on earth.
Just look and listen to this little video clip... the centre of New York? Really?! (I've not tried uploading a video before, so I hope it works for you.)
The Ramble is also one of the most-visited birdwatching sites in the United States, and I saw some amazing birds - a Northern Cardinal who sat and sang to me for a while (here's my very poor photo of him, but all Tim Holtz fans know what a cardinal looks like!); a startlingly electric blue Blue Jay with flashes of white; some beautiful dark birds whose heads gleamed blue-green in the sunlight (it seems they must have been Common Grackles, but there's nothing common about them in real life, I promise you).
There are lots and lots of these orange-chested American Robins, busy with their springtime courtships. And there was also what I think was a Bay-breasted Warbler - though there are several yellowish warblers, so it could have been one of the others. I'm no expert, by the way... I looked them all up afterwards on this fantastic photo database of Central Park Birds. I can see I shall have to go back to spot some more!
Because they deal with such a lot of people, the birds are mostly pretty unperturbed at the approach of a human, so they'll sit still and stay put so that you can get much closer than you might expect. The same goes for the squirrels, of course, who - if you so much as chirrup at them - will come over to see if you've any food on offer!
And, for me, probably the biggest draw of all is that there are some simply magnificent trees...
I hope you've enjoyed this tour of just a small part of Central Park. The weather is being very typically April at the moment, but if we get some more fine days, I will definitely be spending some more time there. I hope that by the time I come home at the beginning of May the trees will be turning a bit greener - that vivid fresh green of early spring leaves is one of my favourite things in the world.
As I said, there are a couple more new projects on their way here at Words and Pictures, but for now I'll wish you happy crafting and see you soon!
I have all my life been considering distant effects and sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future. In laying out Central Park we determined to think of no result to be realised in less than forty years.
Frederick Law Olmsted (one of the two designers of Central Park)
The great white pear tree dropped with dew from leaves
And blossom, under heavens of happy blue.
From Songs with Preludes by Jean Ingelow